The Ecphorizer

EXPO 86: How To See It
Paul W. Healy

Issue #56 (April 1986)


If you haven't yet planned your late summer or early fall vacation, here is a hot tip: don't miss EXPO 86! This is a truly worthwhile World's Fair — the best, by far, since EXPO 67 in Montreal.

Technically, EXPO 86 is not a "universal" (or Class A) fair, such as the one in New York in 1939 or EXPO 67 in Montreal, but a "special category" (Class B) fair, as classified by the Paris bureau that licenses World Fairs. Seattle, Spokane, Knoxville ('82) and New Orleans ('84) were all "special category." But don't be fooled by this; while EXPO 86 should not be compared to EXPO 67 or New York '39, it is many times better than the last four fairs in the US. All those were little better than good State Fairs.

[quoteright'/>In contrast to the last American and Canadian fairs, this one has pavilions for the US, Russia, and mainland China, as well as nearly fifty other countries. There are not many commercial exhibitors; the only two impressive ones are the "Spirit Lodge" of General Motors and the 360-degree screen presentation of Telecom Canada. These should not be missed. The images in the campfire smoke at the GM show are truly amazing. And don't miss the I-Max 3-D theater — the best 3-D ever.

Food prices at EXPO 86 are higher than outside, but not unreasonably so. I particularly recommend the food and the German band and singers in the Munich Festhaus. We also found the Czech restaurant quite good. The Ontario Restaurant is an excellent place to see the nightly fireworks, if you go there late in the evening. The only place we ate where the food was both expensive and tasteless was the Russian pavilion.

One pavilion deserves particular mention, since it is not in the main line of traffic: the Pavilion of Promise. Inside one moves through three theaters with an 18-minute show in each. The three shows are based on a musical, "The Scroll," by Bruce Stacey, Director for Crossroads Christian Communications, Inc. The theaters are loosely modeled on the National Film Board of Canada's famous "Labyrinth" at EXPO 67, which people stood in line eight hours to see. The first theater has images (clouds, trees, etc.) projected on the floor with recorded comments by children, followed by a rather strange account of the creation by "I AM" and two very competent live dancers representing Adam and Eve. At one point the floor rises eight feet and the Fallen Angel darts about like Tinker Bell in the Disney film.

After Adam and Eve succumb to the Angel, the audience moves to the second theater. Here the life of Christ is depicted in color clips from a variety of Hollywood and religious films; you may recognize the Wise Men from Ben Hur. The third theater features an impressive "sound and light" show with many lasers and two circular screens overhead, titled "God's Promise of Hope." Your reaction to all this will depend in large measure on your religious orientation. "Born again" people love it. But see it and judge for yourself.

Based on my experiences at seven World Fairs, here are some tips to help you get the most out of EXPO 86:

  1. Don't try go every day. Take days off to rest. This is a BIG fair. If possible, go after September 1st, when the crowds are expected to thin out.
  2. Get there before the gates open at 9 am, even though the pavilions don't open until 10. Make a beeline for a ticket booth. This gets you into one popular attraction each day without waiting in line. After that, start looking for short lines and see those attractions until late afternoon. By then, many of the more popular pavilions will have shorter lines, and you can get in.
  3. If you want to see both shows at EXPO Centre, line up for the Futures show first, then move to the line for Omnimax. If you start at 9 am, you can see both shows in a morning.
  4. Use the free transportation to get around the fair. Bear in mind that the free Skytrain shuttle uses the same platforms as the regular service (which is not free); but to get from one to the other you have to go out into the street.
  5. If you eat at the Czech pavilion, ask about getting into their theaters without going outside; it can be done. I suspect it can also be done at the Ontario pavilion by clever use of the elevator.
  6. Be sure to see the Theme Plazas (Land, Sea, Air, etc.) — Highway '86, with everything from moon buggies to submarines, in particular. They are very well done and have no lines.
  7. To change money, use banks or the kiosks that accept Bank of America Versatel cards. Hotels and shops do not give nearly so good a rate of exchange.
  8. Try to see the pavilions in two or three adjacent areas each day. In three days (9 to 9), we saw 44 pavilions.

It is a great fair. So go and have fun. With these tips (which we did not have), maybe you can see more than 44 pavilions in three days. 

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